12 Ways To Add More Flavor To Store-Bought Egg Salad

egg salad in white bowl
egg salad in white bowl - Irina Taskova/Getty Images

Egg salad is great stuff. It's good in sandwiches or on its own, and it's naturally high-protein, gluten-free, and keto-friendly. It's quick and easy to whip up for cooks at any skill level, and when you don't have time to do it yourself, it's widely available in supermarkets. The only real difference between buying your egg salad and making your own at home (aside from the price) is that you'll naturally make homemade egg salad to suit your personal palate, while the store-bought kind plays it safe to suit the widest possible range of tastes. To phrase that thought less diplomatically, store-bought can be kind of bland.

Some of us are fine with that, because at a minimum, egg salad just needs salt, pepper, and mayo. But that doesn't mean you couldn't (or shouldn't) dress the store-bought stuff up to suit your own tastes. As a former chef, I've made egg salad by the bucketful, and enjoy finding ways to put a different spin on it. Here are a handful of fun, easy options for bringing your store-bought egg salad to life.

Read more: 26 Best Toppings To Add To Your Chicken Sandwich

Add A Dollop Of Good Mustard

bowl of egg salad
bowl of egg salad - Debbismirnoff/Getty Images

One of the highest-impact additions you can make to any salad is mustard, which is why it's so popular in vinaigrettes. Depending on the type of mustard you choose (there are a lot of them), a small spoonful can bring heat, spiciness, tang, and sweetness in varying proportions. Dijon mustard is the go-to for a lot of us, with its tart spiciness and hint of heat, but other mustards can be just as interesting. Depending how your taste runs, a hot English-style mustard or a sweeter deli-style mustard can really liven up your egg salad. Grainy mustards with whole seeds can also lend a pleasant textural contrast.

There are a couple of potential gotchas, though. One is that plain old yellow ballpark mustard is a fine condiment in its place, but that place isn't usually egg salad (unless it's childhood nostalgia you're shooting for). Another is that mustard is a bold and assertive condiment, so use it sparingly. You may find it best to scoop out a spoonful or two of egg salad and taste it with a dab of your chosen mustard, just to be sure you like the combination before committing to it.

Punch Up Your Egg Salad's Umami Factor With Anchovies

tinned anchovies on a plate
tinned anchovies on a plate - Magone/Getty Images

Anchovies are a polarizing ingredient, but you should try to open your heart to them if you can. Sure, they can be salty and they have an intensely fishy flavor. But they also pack a wallop of savory umami, and when used judiciously, they can make your egg salad pop.

There are a couple of ways you can incorporate them. If you use anchovies regularly and have an open jar on hand, mince a single tiny fillet until it's very fine, then add it to your egg salad in increments until it's just barely noticeable. You shouldn't be able to identify the flavor as fishiness, but just notice that your egg salad suddenly tastes better than it did before. Anchovy paste is a second and easier alternative, because you can simply squeeze more from the tube until you reach the balanced flavor you're looking for.

Anchovies or anchovy paste are a favorite addition to egg salad or deviled eggs -- just ask longtime Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, who amps up his egg salad with the tiny fish. The anchovies won't overpower your dish if you use them sparingly, they'll just elevate it in a way you won't quite be able to put your finger on.

Capers Or Cornichons Add Tang To Egg Salad

white bowl of capers
white bowl of capers - Victoriya89/Getty Images

Store-bought egg salad is the culinary equivalent of a designer-styled house filled with neutral tones. Designers love neutrals because they can be accented to good effect with little pops of color, and similarly, culinary neutrals love little pops of flavor.

"Little pops of flavor" is as good a description as you'll find for capers, the pickled flower buds of a Mediterranean shrub. You should always keep capers in your pantry, even if you don't buy egg salad all that often, because they bring a concentrated punch of tart and briny flavor. Stirred into your egg salad (either whole or chopped) or sprinkled over top as a garnish, they add visual interest as well as a flavor boost.

Another good egg salad option are crunchy cornichons, which are tiny French-style pickles (gherkins are a good substitute). Dice them finely and stir them into your egg salad, where they add much the same effect as capers. Unlike capers, though, cornichons are crunchy. Depending how small you've sliced them, this means they also add some pleasant textural contrast.

Add Color And Flavor To Store-Bought Egg Salad With Pesto

bowl of pesto with basil
bowl of pesto with basil - Gorchittza2012/Getty Images

Basil loves warm weather, which is why this Mediterranean herb is one of summer's signature flavors. One of the best ways to preserve its taste is by using it in pesto sauce, where it's ground with garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

Whether you make your own pesto sauce or buy it at the store, it's an absolute flavor bomb (and its vivid green is visually appealing as well). While it's best known as a pasta sauce, you can use pesto to enliven other foods as well, one of them being egg salad. It doesn't take much -- pesto is pretty intense -- so use it sparingly, stirring in small amounts until your egg salad takes on just enough of its bright, summery flavor. What's especially great about pesto is that all of its ingredients suit egg salad, not just basil. The garlic and the Parmesan cheese particularly bring high-impact flavors and umami all their own.

Smoked Salmon Pairs Beautifully With Egg Salad

smoked salmon egg salad toasts
smoked salmon egg salad toasts - Sarsmis/Getty Images

Eggs and fish aren't necessarily a combination you see on a lot of breakfast tables, but it's one many chefs love. Silky cold-smoked salmon is often used in place of bacon in an Eggs Benedict variation called Eggs Royale, for example. One bite reveals this duo is delicious.

At one of my restaurants, I made a similar dish using my house-cured gravlax instead of smoked salmon. I also often made a quick meal by chopping the trim pieces and adding them to egg salad sandwiches. Now that I'm not actively "chef-ing" anymore, I use store-bought smoked salmon instead. I can attest that it's a really good combination.

If you use your store-bought egg salad in sandwiches, you can be economical and dice the salmon into the filling, or extravagant and make a layer of salmon on the bread beneath the egg salad. If you'll be eating the salad with a fork, you can use strips of smoked salmon as a garnish. You can even make a serviceable canape by making a ring or rosette of smoked salmon on a cracker, and filling the middle with egg salad.

Add Crumbled Bacon To Egg Salad

egg salad crostini with bacon
egg salad crostini with bacon - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

If there's a more slam-dunk partnership than bacon and eggs, it's hard to imagine what it might be. Toast and butter, maybe? Peaches and cream? Regardless, when you're looking to perk up store-bought egg salad, drawing on the natural affinity between eggs and bacon is a natural choice. The best way to add bacon flavor to your egg salad is by cooking a few strips until they're crisp, then crumbling them onto the salad and mixing them in (or just leaving them on top as a garnish, if you prefer).

Alternatively, most supermarkets sell ready-diced bacon, which can simply be cooked in a skillet (or on a sheet pan in your oven) and used in the same way. Depending on your plans for the egg salad, you might even opt to serve a few slices of premium bacon alongside it, or incorporate them into your egg sandwich. You really can't go wrong.

Apples Are The Unexpected Egg Salad Ingredient You Need

Person slicing apple cutting board
Person slicing apple cutting board - Milan2099/Getty Images

A lot of us like a little bit of freshness and crunch in our egg salad. Usually, it comes in the form of chopped celery, which is a perfectly good addition. But celery's not the only option. One you might not have considered is apples. I live in an apple-growing region (Atlantic Canada) and eat a lot of them. Because of this, I know they work surprisingly well in egg salad. I generally choose a medium-tart apple like a Gala or Honeycrisp, but most apples will work. You can either chop the apple into small cubes or slice it thinly, then chop the slices cross-wise, so they're small enough to incorporate into the salad. You'll have more textural contrast with diced apples, but you'll get the flavor either way.

The brightness and freshness of the apples enliven the salad, whether you eat it on its own or in a sandwich. They also play nicely with lots of other add-ins, from onions or chives to fresh herbs, or even curry powder. Let your imagination run wild -- it's hard to go wrong.

Dill Fronds Add Bright Flavor To Egg Salad

chopping fresh dill cutting board
chopping fresh dill cutting board - Oleh Trytiachenko/Getty Images

I currently have the space for a decent garden, but even as an apartment-dweller, I grew a few herbs in a windowsill. Their bright and aromatic flavors provide a quick lift to almost any food, whether you pick them as needed or buy them from the supermarket.

One of my favorites in egg salad is chopped fresh dill. Its flavor has an interesting combination of licorice-y anise notes and hints of citrus and other herbs. A relatively plain store-bought egg salad is exactly the kind of neutral backdrop it needs to shine. If you love the flavor of dill but don't have fresh dill at your disposal, a diced-up dill pickle or even a splash of dill pickle juice can also work, though with juice you'll need to be careful not to make the salad runny.

Other herbs that can be interesting in egg salad include chives, tarragon, basil, thyme, fennel fronds, or even finely minced fresh rosemary. If you have fennel on hand, the finely shaved bulb makes a good addition to the salad as well. Like celery, it gives a juicy crunch, but it packs a delicate anise flavor as well.

Brighten Store-Bought Egg Salad With Apple Cider Vinegar

cider vinegar with apples
cider vinegar with apples - Madeleine_steinbach/Getty Images

Store-bought egg salad isn't at all bad, it's just plain. The base of flavor is usually there, it just needs that little somethin'-somethin' to make your taste buds sit up and take notice. Often, the answer is a bit of acidity. One of my favorite ways to add that is with a splash of good apple cider vinegar, a well-loved and widely available ingredient. It's not overpowering, but it still cuts the richness of the egg yolks and mayonnaise quite effectively -- one of our creamiest egg salad recipes uses it for that exact reason.

Other acidic ingredients can do the job just as well if you don't keep cider vinegar on hand. Mild vinegars are all excellent choices, including white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and champagne vinegar. If you have a good Asian market near you, rice wine vinegar and coconut vinegar are interesting options. In a pinch, even a quick squeeze of lemon or lime juice will do the job.

Bring Bold Flavors To Egg Salad With Spice Mixes

close-up of spices in jars
close-up of spices in jars - Jakeolimb/Getty Images

Go take a look at the spices in your cupboard. In between all of the individual spices, how many spice mixes do you have? Most of us have at least a few, from garam masala to chili powder to Chinese five-spice mix. And that's before we even get into themed offerings from various spice companies, like Tex-Mex or lemon-dill seasonings.

The beauty of egg salad is that it's a blank canvas for other flavors. If you like a spice blend enough to keep it in your cupboard, there's a very good chance you'll like it in egg salad too. It can be transformative: A shake or two of Tex-Mex mix or chili powder and a couple of other signature flavors can turn regular egg salad into Tex-Mex egg salad.

If your favorite take-out is the local Indian place, try a sprinkle of curry powder, garam masala, or chaat masala in your egg salad. A spice vendor's themed "Thai seasoning," or a traditional Middle Eastern ras al hanout, za'atar, or baharat can take your egg salad to a completely different place. If you're a serious egg salad aficionado, you can even custom-tailor a spice blend to suit your personal taste.

Add Flavor And Protein To Egg Salad With Tuna

can of tuna with pull tab
can of tuna with pull tab - Juanmonino/Getty Images

When my kids were young, we made egg salad as a frugal but filling lunch. Because active growing kids need all the nutrition they can get, I'd often double down on eggs' already high protein content with a well chosen add-in or two.

If you're trying to up your protein intake without resorting to supplements, shakes, or bars, this is a great way to get there. One of my go-to add-ins has always been canned tuna, which is both low in fat and high in protein. Aside from those virtues, it also adds flavor and texture to the salad. What's not to like? (Tip: You can switch up deviled eggs by adding tuna as well.)

Tuna's not your only option, by any means. A spoonful of Greek yogurt will brighten and loosen a stodgy egg salad with its tart flavor, while packing in additional protein. Ricotta and cottage cheese are high-protein add-ins that blend right in with the eggs. For an elevated take on the theme, go with crab meat or leftover lobster (that's a thing, right?). Or, for lower-cost but still interesting seafood additions, you can turn to imitation "krab" or smoked oysters.

Stir Salsa Into Store-Bought Egg Salad For Brighter Flavors

pico de gallo salad bowl
pico de gallo salad bowl - false/Shutterstock

Eggs and salsa go together almost as well as eggs and bacon. They're a great combination in huevos rancheros, so why not in your egg salad as well? When you think about it, in fact, salsa is an ideal complement to store-bought egg salad. It brings flavor, a bit of heat, some textural contrast, and even extra nutrition from the veggies. Jarred salsa works just fine, and has the advantage of convenience. You may have one or two kinds in your fridge already, so just grab your favorite and use it. Alternatively, you could opt for something like a fresh-made pico de gallo, or even guacamole.

Before you add the salsa, drain off any excess moisture. For a small serving you can just lift some salsa from the jar or bowl with a fork, letting the juices run through between the tines. For a larger batch you can use a colander. Jarred salsa won't change much after it's added to your eggs, but the vegetables in fresh pico de gallo will weep moisture and can make your egg salad mushy. If you opt for a fresh salsa, don't add it until the last minute.

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